as the reincarnation of Ching Shih for the purpose of weaving their
lives together and showing an intriguing similarity, as well as contrast
between their lives. What tickled my inspiration bone to write and
illustrate this graphic novel is a feather placed in my childhood.
I remember the early morning discussions, amongst my parents, on the
predominant topic of violence and crimes, especially against women.
The daily newspaper was always flooded with victims of rape, shut
down due to the “lack of evidence” or “anonymous reports”. The
articles were rarely about fighters who went ahead and took justice
into their own hands which, subconsciously, stayed within my head
for a long time. My curiosity grew along with me and then one day
I came across Phoolan Devi’s story which changed my life.
While I delved deeper into her story, I also looked at women who
physically fought their way to power while defying gender roles, thus,
leading to my interest in Ching Shih’s biography. Both these women
reached a position of power and were able to be heard, through different
tactics but at the same time for a similar cause. The juxtaposition of
certain events of their lives almost wrote itself. Through this narrative,
I hope to blaze the fire or, at least, ignite the flame, budding within us
towards this topic of oppression, empowerment of women and the need
to speak and be loud about the wrong being done to us and around us.
You may forget what has been written, you may forget what they did
but, I promise you, you will never forget how their story made you
feel, question and want to change the way things are.
When the whole world is silent,
even one voice becomes
There is news that sri
ram and his gang are
hiding in behmai village.
THE GANG PACKED THE WEAPONS, SPLIT UP IN THREE BOATS AND SAILED
TOWARDS BEHMAI VILLAGE. WE GOT OFF CLOSE TO THE BORDER AND CLIMBED
OUR WAY UP THE SANDY HILLS.
MARCHING THROUGH THE NIGHT, WE DISCUSSED OUR TACTICS. BABA MUSTAKIM,
BALWAN, MAN SINGH AND I KNEW THAT SHRI RAM’S GANG WAS WELL-ARMED
AND IN ORDER TO SURVIVE WE HAD TO surround them.
WE WALKED FOR MILES UNTIL WE REACHED Ingwi, A SHEPHERD VILLAGE.
THIS IS THE PLACE WHERE SHRIRAM AND HIS GANG HAD
TORTURED YOU, PHOOLAN.
OUT OF THE SILENCE WE HEARD SCREECHING THROUGH A POWERFUL HAILER. IT
WAS SHRI RAM’S VOICE, ECHOING IN THE RAVINES.
you think you can
get me, mustakim?!
me, shri ram the
thakur, you and your
and you balwan, a
shepherd, a caste of
shit! we have already
given you one
lesson and now you
SHRI RAM AND HIS MEN HAD BEEN TIPPED OFF. WE HAD TO THINK AND MOVE
FAST. tHE GANG SPLIT INTO SMAL GROUPS AND HEEDLESSLY ADVANCED IN THE
DIRECTION OF HIS VOICE.
WHILE BALWAN AND HIS MEN WERE BUSY TERRORIZING THE VILLAGE, I SAW
SOME MEN FLEEING FROM THE REAR OF THE VILLAGE.
OVER HERE! THEY’RE
There was heavy exchange of fire for a while, driving Shri Ram’s gang
further up the ravine, but at about a thousand yards from the village
they stopped shooting back. They must have retreated and missed Shri
Ram by a whisker of his red moustache.
We decided to return to the village in case they tried to double back
and trap us from behind. Baba Mustakim was furious and I was beside
myself with anger.
There is only one way
to get a hold of Shri
Ram and its through his
line them up!
All these men stood
there and did nothing
while I was abused and
humiliated by Shri Ram
and his gang.
YOU DID NOTHING!
Most of you not only stood
there, but participated and took
turns to violate every inch of
my body because you thought I
did not respect the Thakurs.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT
THAT FEELS LIKE?!
Even after that I was still
and was told that I deserved
it. If I fought back they told
me to relax and enjoy it.
I was never given the chance to speak
or fight back and neither will you.
Above all, be the
heroine of your life,
not the victim.
On 10th August, 1963, in a small village called Ghura Ka Purwa, Uttar
Pradesh, I was born as a female, into poverty and belonged to a low
caste called Mallahs.
Phoolan, where are you
going with that stick?
To the jungle, Buppa. I’m
going with Choti.
Don’t worry the stick is
to beat the snakes and
not the boys.
Phoolan! Go fetch some
water from the well but
before leaving come
here, I want to tell you
Every morning the day started with Amma reminding me to embrace my
strength, confidence and fight back when needed.
If those boys or anybody slaps
you, slap them back. Remember, if
someone beats you and you don't
fight back, then I'll beat you.
Good, Stand up straight
and be proud of yourself.
Now, run along and fetch
While returning from the well, I saw Mayadin, Buppa’s elder bother’s
son, leaving with our family's only neem tree.
I leapt at his moving cart and grabbed the rope harness that ran
through the nose of the bullock, refusing to let go, no matter how
much Mayadin whipped at me from his seat.
I ran back home and told buppa
what I had just witnessed.
Yes, we spoke about it and we
agreed to cut down the tree.
How could you let
this happen?! Can’t
you see that he’s
trying to take over
What is done is done.
Now forget about it.
Forget about it?! You won’t
fight for this, will you?
Come Didi, I have a plan.
WE staged a sit in on the land and did not move even when the family
elders tried to use force to drag us home.
Unfortunately, our fight was in vain. Mayadin haD WON...
A year had passed and things were still the same. I was playing with
my friends in the lake and saw Didi running towards us.
pHOOLAN! BUPPA IS CALLING YOU!
WHY? I ALREADY BROUGHT TWO
BUCKETS OF WATER!
YOUR BRIDEGROOM IS HERE.
Huh? My bridegroom?
HURRY UP! LET’S GO!
She is only eleven. Can’t you
tell him to wait a while?
Wait for how long? What if
she gets tampered with? A
daughter is always a burden,
and ours is no beauty.
The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping
of females begins when the doctor says, "It's a girl."
I’ve already paid for
her with this bike and
cow. Don’t think that
there is a shortage
of girls for me.
We were poor and were about to have another addition to our family
as mother was pregnant with a baby boy. So, at the age of eleven, I
was married off to Putti Lal, a thirty year old man.
Touch your husband’s feet
and take his blessings
Alright, now, get
a move on.
Now, go, start a new life.
A Haryana khap panchayat said the marriageable
age for girls should be lowered to prevent the
rising number of rapes in Haryana. I am with the
khaps on this issue. This will protect women.
Om Prakash Chautala
One day I was happily playing in the lake and the other day I was
married. That is how things worked in our village. We sat on a boat
and sailed off to my husband’s village
I wish someone would have told
me that, just because I'm a girl,
I don't have to get married.
The boat was being tamed by the small, yet powerful waves. I felt
sick and dizzy. I felt my eyes roll back and then, I had my first
A Chinese prostitute from a small brothel in canton,
china. She had just been married to a pirate, Zheng Yi,
and was the center of discussion amongst his red
flag fleet, while boarding the ship.
They say that Ching Shih only
accepted his proposal because
he agreed to an equal share of
power and wealth. She was…
A woman should soften
but not weaken a man.
The boat hit the shore and reality checked in. as i struggled to come
to my senses, Putti Lal shook me by my shoulders, held me by my
wrist and led the way towards his house.
i was greeted by my mother-in-law, glaring and sizing me up.
Next morning, like always, I went to fetch water from the well and
put my pot next to an unfamiliar, shiny, one.
this side is for the high caste thakurs.
low caste use the other side.
Of course it is.
With the pot on my head, I made my way to the dreaded mother-in-law
Only to have the pot broken into pieces by a silly bunch of boys.
look, the low caste
wife is carrying water
for her old husband!
lets see her carry it
without a pot!
i unleashed the most brutal
set of curses on them,
leaving them speechless.
You broke the pot?! You’ve
been here for just a day and
you’re already such a pain!
I didn’t break it on purpose.
It broke and there is nothing
I can do about it.
how dare you be insolent
to my mother! go inside
the house, now!
Keep you sharp tongue
tucked inside! Just
wait till I tell your
husband! Putti Lal!
Think you’re a
Women are the only
oppressed group in our
society that lives in
intimate association with
I must have blacked out due to the pain. little did I know that this was
just the beginning. my insides were painfully shredded, along with my
Innocence. It was the most demeaning feeling I had ever felt.
the pain was snatched away by another falshback and she appeared
from complete darkness, this time as a little girl sitting and
weeping, in a dingy brothel room.
You can waste your lives
drawing lines, Or
you can live your life
I woke up one morning and was determined to escape the months of
abuse. I ran and never looked back.
after several hours of walking
and stumbling, with wounded
feet, I reached my village.
and, finally, my home.
Amma was happy to see me but Buppa seemed extremely tense.
She’s an outcast now. Do you know
what they do to such girls?
I know, but Putti Lal
was doing the same
thing to her.
For the first time I saw fear in my mother’s eyes and Disappointment
in my father’s. I did not understand this form of punishment. When I
was ten I was beaten and scolded, but now it was different and it
felt wrong and dirty.
At the age of fifteen, I had already been married and raped by my
abusive husband. This was the least of my problems. the entire
village had been informed of his doing. i became an outcast and my
body served as fresh meat to starving dogs.
I felt the eyes of lecherous men undress me with their eyes and
finally the day came when they decided to feed their lust.
I was gang raped by several
men with my parents forced
to be witnesses.
I spent sleepless nights on
trees trying to escape further
abuse. I did not know what I did
to deserve such pain.
Buppa was ashamed of me and Amma gave me five rupees, told me to
go and live with my elder sister, Rukmani, in her village.
I'm just a person
trapped inside a
A robbery took place back in my village and I was blamed by Mayadin
and jailed for it.
Why have you arrested me?
The headman’s house was
burgled last night.
i wasn’t even in
Do you think we are fools?!
Why did you leave your husband?
Couldn’t he satisfy you?
That’s none of your
business and you
can’t keep me here!
they looked at each other, laughed like hyenas, cornered me and
unbuckled their pants
no... not again!
I spent three days, writhing with anger and hatred. Soon, I was
thrown out of jail after Amma was able to give them proof that I
was at Rukmani’s place.
Days passed by and my wounds began to heal. There was a thick layer
of disappointment settling around me. My own father despised me.
A girl child is a curse. She should
have never left her husband’s house.
How could you even
say that, Buppa? You
think that I should
have let him abuse
me night and day?
Men are taught to apologize
for their weaknesses, and
women for their strengths.
This is Babu Gujjar and
his gang! We have come
for Phoolan Devi!
Go! hide somewhere!
She’s not here.
She’s gone to
her Aunt’s place.
Is that so? Isn’t
this her brother?
Phoolan, if you
don’t come out,
I’ll chop his ears
and nose off!
Leave my brother
alone! Take me.
Stop wearing your wishbone
where your backbone
ought to be.
They dragged me to another village and after travelling several
miles on bare feet, I was unable to walk further.
Babu! She can’t walk
any further. Her feet
are giving away.
This is not how you
treat a woman! We
should respect them.
abu gujjar pulled me by my hair and threw me on the floor.
I shivered and shut my eyes .
His sweat engulfed my every
pore. I clenched my jaw with
rage and waited.
waited for someone to stop him.
No one came, not even Vikram.
Next morning the rays of the sun hit the floor and I screamed. Babu
Gujjar was still not satisfied.
he’s at it again!
For the first time, someone
took action and shot him dead.
I threw the dead body away and
stood there, emotionless.
Hear me loud and clear,
nobody touches this girl.
We will take care of her.
She’s one of us, now.
Women are forbidden
in gangs, Vikram. They
bring bad luck.
Bandits make their
He thought women bring bad luck. Little did he know that I was
about to bring hell on earth. The little flame blazed inside of me,
empowering and connecting me to her, again.
If you want something
said, ask a man; if you
want something done,
ask a woman.
in the flashback, She materialized wearing the helmet and
armour of her late husband, Zheng Yi, staring down all
contenders; she ceased command, took over the
plunder and grinned with power.
I learned how to use a rifle, and participated in the gang's activities
across Bundelkhand. At last, I had the courage and power to defend
myself and take revenge.
I went back to my village to meet my family. Amma and Didi welcomed
me with warm hugs and tears while father got up and left.
She’s caused enough trouble. What is
she back for? She should be with her
husband. That is where she belongs.
The same thing again and again! You
want me to go to my husband?! Now
you wait and watch.
I stormed off to Putti Lal’s house, and Vikram dragged him out of
the house. Putti Lal struggled and pleaded.
We made him sit on a donkey,
backwards, and paraded him
through the village.
I tied him to a tree and beat
him, black and blue. I was like a
beast whose muzzle had finally
been ripped off.
I felt liberated and for once in control. Overwhelmed, I broke
down in tears, only to wipe them off and remind myself to be tough
and vengeful. my scattered emotions were pulled to a focus and I
felt her force her way into my head, yet again.
A powerful woman, feared by her fleet of 80,000 men, was
stating the code of conduct out loud which, if not followed,
would mostly result in chopping off their head and
throwing their body in the ocean.
Fifth, ONLY PRETTY
captured WOMEN ARE
TO BE KEPT AND CAN be
divvied up or BOUGHT.
However, if a pirate IS
awarded or purchaseS
a woman, he IS then
considered married to
her and HAS to treat
her WITH RESPECT. iF
NOT, HIS head WILL BE
cHOPPED off and HIS
body WILL BE thrown
in the ocean.
When a woman behaves like
a man, why doesn't she
behave like a nice man?
Her appearance gave me strength, every time. I knew what had to be
done. Now, I had the power to change the rules.
Write this on a piece of paper,
“Any man who marries and abuses
a girl or a woman will have his
head chopped off and his body
will be thrown in the lake.”
We walked off leaving Putti to dwell on his sins and slowly die alone.
I was fire and Vikram was the fuel.
The same thing again and again! You
want me to go to my husband?! Now
you wait and watch.
Because I am a woman,
I must make unusual
efforts to succeed. If
I fail, no one will say,
"She doesn't have what
it takes." They will say,
"Women don't have
what it takes."
Clare Boothe Luce
You’ve avenged your honour.
Now, you’re a real bandit,
just like the rest of us
but remember, if you kill,
If you kill one, you go
to jail. You kill twenty,
and you’re famous.
Courage is like a muscle.
it by use.
These words echoed in my ears along with the shot fired, straight
into Vikram’s heart.
My head was jerked back by salty hands and before I could reach
for my gun, I was tied up and kidnapped.
They carried me to the river
and dumped me in a boat. I
heard them untying the rope
and the boat set off.
Lying bound in the bottom of
the boat I looked up and saw
the red-haired demon, Shri Ram.
Well? What are you going to do now?
Why don’t you just kill me like
you killed Vikram?!
Oh, you can still be a great
deal of use!
The boat hit the shore and they
put a blindfold over my eyes.
They threw me to the ground and
then it all started.
Shri Ram was the first, and then the others, Thakurs, anyone who was
around, and then they took me through other villages.
To my understanding,
consumption of fast
food contributes to
such incidents (rape).
Chowmein leads to
evoking an urge to
indulge in such acts.
The blindfold was removed and
I saw things that I would never
to able to forget.
Crowds of faces stared at my
abused and naked body.
Demons came without end from the fires of hell to rape me. one
after the other, leaving permanent scars. after three, long, weeks
of the highest form of torture, it all ended.
I was barely alive and was slowly becoming conscious again.
No, no. she’s dead. I’m
not touching her!
With blinking eyes I followed the end of the rope that still bound
me and saw a hand gripping it firmly like the leash of a dog.
There stood Shri Ram, burning up with anger.
You piece of shit! You thought
you could bully us around and
give us orders. You understand
now who you belong to?
One should not
being a woman.
A woman covered me with a blanket and I curled up under it. With
tightly shut eyes I awaited the pain and horror.
Shri Ram started beating me with a lathi and the blanket fell away.
He lifted me up by my hair and looked dead into my eyes.
Now you are
down to your
this does not
end here. now,
its my turn.
Every villain is a hero
in his own mind.
I’ve learned that
people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget
how you made them feel.